I was listening to an MP3 recording of an evangelical speaker giving a rather forceful bagging to Bishop Tom Wright and his theology just this morning (including the politico-economic aspects of it), when I heard the speaker refer to very negative judgement of a certain “Peter Bauer” on the social encyclicals of Paul VI. Opening Cathnews today, I see that Papa Benny is warming the world up to receive his third encyclical:
Pope Benedict says his new encyclical on the economy and labour issues, due to be published at the end of this month, will focus on ways to make globalisation more responsive to the needs of the poor amid the worldwide financial crisis… The pope has been working on “Caritas in veritate” (Charity in Truth) since 2007 but recently said he had held back on issuing it so that he could update it to reflect the global economic crisis.
So I was inspired to put “Peter Bauer” and “Paul VI” and “economics” into Google and see what I found. As far as I can tell here is Bauer’s full quotation from “Ecclesiastical Economics: Envy Legitimized” (1984, pp88-89):
Paul VI chose to speak on subjects with which he was unfamiliar. “People who pronounce on matters about which they are ignorant are apt simply to absorb ideas propagated or taken up by other Älite or establishment groups…. The spirit of these documents is contrary to the most durable and best elements in Catholic tradition. They are indeed even un-Christian. Their Utopian, chiliastic ideology, combined with an overriding preoccupation with economic differences, is an amalgam of the ideas of millenarian sects, of the extravagant claims of the early American advocates of foreign aid, and of the Messianic component of Marxism-Leninism…. Populorum Progressio and Octogesima Adveniens are documents which are immoral … because they are incompetent (and because) they give color to the notion that envy can be legitimate; and they spread confusion about the meaning of charity.”
Well. There are at least three charges there:
1) That when ecclesiastics proclaim on economical and social issues they are speaking about subjects of which they are ignorant.
2) That when ecclesiastics proclaim on economical and social issues they are speaking out of an “Utopian, chiliastic ideology” which is akin to Marxism.
3) That when ecclesiastics proclaim on economical and social issues they are doing so out of “envy” (ie. out of a real but hidden desire to have for themselves the wealth of those whom they criticise).
Those are indeed heavy charges. And perhaps it goes some way for us to understand them if we realise that Peter Bauer was “Lord” Peter Bauer, made a peer of the realm by his “friend and admirer” (as the Wikipedia page puts it) Margaret Thatcher. So perhaps his attacks upon Paul VI were not completely disinterested either. One can at least say that while Bauer may have been more expert in matters of the economy than Paul VI, it was Paul VI who famously said that the the Church was “expert in humanity”.